Arsonists blamed for allotment fire

Firefighters at the scene of the allotment blaze
Firefighters at the scene of the allotment blaze

AN investigation into the cause of an allotment fire that came days after a vandal attack has ruled it was arson.

The blaze that saw 25ft-high flames shoot out of a plot at the Chester Road allotments, in Hartlepool, is said to have been started deliberately five days after yobs daubed graffiti calling themselves the “party crew” on the same site.

John Swift

John Swift

An investigation by Cleveland Fire Brigade was launched after two sheds, which had tools and other gardening equipment inside, were destroyed in the blaze at around 8am on Friday, February 11. A vegetable patch was also ruined.

A spokeswoman for Cleveland Fire Brigade said: “The investigation has found the cause was deliberate. There had been break-ins over the previous nights and the police are aware of the situation.”

The 72-year-old man whose plot was ruined told the Mail of his despair moments after seeing months of hard work go up in flames.

The man, who did not want to be named, said at the time: “It was just a sickening feeling when I saw the fire engines, I can’t believe it.”

A neighbouring shed belonging to John Swift, 51, had been hit by callous vandals the previous Sunday, while a break-in at another plot took place a day later.

The dad-of-five, a fisherman from the Raby Road area of town, said: “It doesn’t surprise me that it was started deliberately, but we’re not sure if it was the kids.

“We’re not just wanting to blame people for the sake of it as we’re not like that.”

Plain-clothed police officers have been carrying out patrols around the allotments since Mr Swift’s plot was hit.

The officers are taking part in a town-wide, night-time scheme to deter crooks and catch criminals red-handed.

It is part of the Respect Hartlepool campaign, which aims to cut crime in the town and improve the area for residents.

Officers are still investigating the damage at the allotments.

Anyone with information about the incidents should contact Hartlepool Police on (01642) 302178 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.